Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Nearly 20 years ago it was possible to buy ONLY IN MAYNARD bumper stickers, t-shirts and sweatshirts at local stores and at Maynard Fest, the annual street fair. The lettering for ONLY IN MAYNARD products was orange against a black background - Maynard's school colors. Then, for a while, the sole remnant of this endeavor is bumper stickers for sale at Russell's convenience store, next to Town Hall. Since ceased.

As of  February 2020, mugs for sale. 
See information at end of this column.

"Only in..." can have different meanings: "Only in Vegas," has one; the Only-in-Portland ethos of the cable TV show Portlandia, another entirely. Only in America was a TV show about taking pride in things American, while "Only in Boulder" is the motto of Life in Boulder includes the Naked Pumpkin Run: flash mobs of people running down streets wearing real or plastic jack-o'-lanterns on their heads - and nothing else except running shoes.      

The words on ONLY IN MAYNARD products were deliberately printed so that the right side was noticeably higher than the left. Best guess is the wording was askew to convey that negative, rueful pride that only in Maynard could things (town things, school things, people things...) be so humorously incompetent or fouled up.

The original bumper sticker
An example: use of snow blowers on the roof of Memorial Gym, adjacent to ArtSpace, during the big-snow winter of 2010-2011, was intended to save the roof from risk of collapse, but instead resulted in roof damage, leading to leaks and severe water damage to the gym floor, which had been completely refurbished only months before. In the end this contributed one more reason for demolition of the gym in 2012. 

Back in 2005, to counter the prevailing negative impression, a group of civic-minded citizens approached Jesse Floyd, the then editor of the Beacon-Villager newspaper, to see if they could take turns writing a pro-Maynard column featuring the friendly and welcoming nature of this unique small town. The column lasted only a few months. Only in Maynard.

An echo of that positive intent was conveyed in a 2008 article in the newspaper that read in part "A clever slogan, coined some few years ago, continues to describe our singular uniqueness, our melting pot citizenry and our basic values for the 'good life.' That slogan, ‘Only in Maynard,’ sets up the town as a special place where very special people do distinctive and exceptional things. This is especially true in the art of song and music as developed in our town."

An informal survey of people about town yielded both the negative and positive connotations, and also a third meaning - the concept of specialness. Only in Maynard can you see Santa Claus arriving by helicopter for the Christmas parade. Only in Maynard can you still find a local movie theater. Only in Maynard are the bars close enough together to have a pub crawl that might involve actual crawling (or at least walking) rather than driving.  

ONLY IN MAYNARD mug. Note TM after the D for trademarked.

Harking back to the origin, bumper stickers, shirts and mugs have "TM" superscripted above the end of ONLY IN MAYNARD, signifying that an application had been filed for a trademark. An initial check of the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office found no application was ever filed, the omission apparently qualifying as one more "Only in Maynard" example. However, further search found that a state-only trademark had been approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in September 2003. That one lapsed, but a new Massachusetts trademark was issued in 2017 to a new holder. As of 2020 there are ONLY IN MAYNARD bumper stickers, T-shirts and mugs offered for sale at various venues and events. Profits are channeled to non-profit organizations located in Maynard.

So, after all this debate, what does "Only in Maynard" really mean today? Whether it is only in this small town are people so warm, friendly and welcoming, or only here are things so ruefully, headshakingly messed up, or a comment on the unique nature of life in Maynard, my own opinion is that in comparison, bumper stickers reading ONLY IN ACTON or ONLY IN SUDBURY would make no sense whatsoever.

As of February 2020, mugs that are imprinted with ONLY IN MAYNARD can be purchased from David Mark, Price is $10. All profits go to supporting a program that plants flowers along the Assabet River Rail Trail. See Also available at The Outdoor Store, Sugar Snap and the Boston Bean House.

Maynard's History of Banks

Approaching Maynard’s 150th anniversary, the town is served by Middlesex Bank and Citizens Bank. Of course, for many people their cell phone is their bank, but you don’t get a safe deposit box or free lollipops with that.

Facade has dates 1904 and 1929 for bank start and
this building. As of  1988,Middlesex Savings Bank.
The first mention of banking services in Maynard pre-dates 1900. The Assabet Manufacturing Company, under management by Lorenzo Maynard, allowed employees and citizens of Maynard to have money in interest-earning savings accounts; employees earned 5%, non-employees 4%. At the time the company declared bankruptcy on December 31, 1898, deposits were $132,000. According to the centennial history book, on August 12, 1899, assignees managing the distribution of mill assets paid the depositors 25%, and then on February 23, 1900 (after the purchase by the American Woolen Company), an additional 35%. [A different account of the event says employees got a combined 66 2/3.] There were rumors at the time that the mill owners and Maynard family had diverted funds before the bankruptcy, and that Lorenzo Maynard signed over mill property estimated at $250,000 to protect himself when the crash came. Such was the animosity that there was a failed attempt to change the name of the town to Assabet.

Starting in 1898, the Hudson Cooperative Bank (established 1885) – had an agent, not a branch – in Maynard. People could make mortgage payments and deposit savings with George Salisbury, who was station agent at the train station. This made sense because he could take the train to Hudson. George was succeeded by Charles H. Persons (main job, musical instrument salesman), and then by Frank E. Sanderson, who served as bank agent at his store. Frank is better known to Maynard history as the Town Clerk from 1913 to 1948, and also for being entombed in the Maynard family crypt with his wife, Mary Augusta (Peters) Sanderson (1874-1947), the great-granddaughter of Amory and Mary Maynard, last descendant to live in Maynard. 

Assabet Institution for Savings, the first bank in Maynard, opened on April 29, 1904. Its physical location began in the Riverside Block – building later home to Gruber Bros Furniture – then built an impressive brick building at 17 Nason Street in 1929, moved in January 1930. It survived the Great Depression, morphed into Assabet Savings Bank, and in time was acquired by Middlesex Savings Bank.   

Logo for Maynard Trust Company
bank, 1913. Click to enlarge.
The U.S. Postal Savings System was operated by the Post Office from 1911 to 1967. These savings accounts were popular during the Great Depression because they were backed by "the full faith and credit of the United States Government." President Roosevelt’s creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933 provided security for commercial banks, lessening the attractiveness of postal savings.

Maynard Trust Company began operations in 1913 as Maynard’s second bank. The MTC building at 75 Main Street, under a statuary eagle and the founding date, opened for business in 1926. MTC was acquired by Middlesex County National Bank in 1947, the building abandoned in 1965 for an existing building at 25 Nason Street. Middlesex acquired Assabet Savings Bank and moved into Assabet’s building, adding “Middlesex Savings Bank” signage with an electronic clock and a semi-accurate temperature display.

building vacant as of 2017
The United Co-operative Society of Maynard started Maynard Consumers Credit Union in August 1948. It was at 64-66 Main Street, later 68 Main Street, and lasted until the end of the Co-op in 1973. Bank-wise, there was then a quiet bank start-up period until the 1970s, when a spate of branch banks opened: Community National Bank (1973; at 52 Main Street), Garden City Trust Company (1973), Concord Co-operative Bank (1978) and Digital Credit Union (1979). None are in Maynard now. DCU had a branch office in the mill and at 129 Parker Street. DCU survived the end of Digital Equipment Corporation, but the closest branch is in Acton. BayBank Middlesex moved into the building at 25 Nason Street in 1979 and then underwent a series of name changes including BayBank, Fleet, and lastly Bank of America (2004), which closed its doors in the fall of 2017.   

building, as of 2019 vacant.
The most recent bank building to make an appearance in Maynard was 47 Nason Street, opened as Garden City in 1973, later housing Concord Co-op, then Citizens Bank starting in 2001. The company had started out as High Street Bank, Providence, Rhode Island, in 1828.

Traditionally, banks had impressive facades that often outlive the actual banks, leaving behind “ghost signs” on buildings that have been repurposed. “MAYNARD TRUST COMPANY” graces 75 Main Street. The building dates to 1926. The bank was acquired by Middlesex in 1947. Similarly, “ASSABET INSTITUTION FOR SAVINGS” is lettered atop Middlesex Bank, there since 1988.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Digital Equipment Corporation - Aftermath

Ken Olsen (second from left) at June 2006 event held in his
honor at Gordon College, Wenham. MA. Click to enlarge photos.

June 17, 2006: Fourteen years after Ken left DEC, an estimate one thousand former employees participated in “The Salute to Ken Olsen,” held at Gordon College, Wenham, MA, for a groundbreaking ceremony for a Ken Olsen Science Center. Ken has been a Gordon College Trustee since 1961. The Town of Maynard was represented by Board of Selectmen Chairman Bob Nadeau. Ken died in 2011; his wife had preceded him by two years. They are buried in a modest plot in Lincoln Cemetery, Lincoln, MA. At the time of Ken’s death he was survived by two children and five grandchildren.

DEC had stopped all company operations in the mill buildings in 1993. Not long after, same for Parker Street. The company headquarters had been relocated to a new building at 111 Powdermill Road, subsequently sold to Stratus Technologies. In November 1994, Digital sold the mill to a newly formed private healthcare company called Franklin Lifecare Corporation (FLC). The price was $1.5 million. It was a fire sale; during DEC’s last year the town had assessed the value of the mill at $25 million, and DEC’s property taxes were $671,000. Digital was not completely out of the facility. The Maynard Historical Society has correspondence about DEC leasing space from Franklin, and disputes about whether equipment was DEC’s to sell or had been part of the sale.

FLC’s plans were described in a prospectus titled “Mill Pond Village.” The intent was to start by finding commercial tenants for the buildings facing the mill pond. The follow-on was to create a massive senior independent living, assisted living and nursing home complex in the other buildings. The project was to have up to 800 living units, dining rooms, craft rooms, a museum for the town (!) and a cafĂ© overlooking the Assabet River. Funding never materialized. The mill complex stayed mostly vacant until Wellesley Rosewood Capital LLC (Clock Tower Place) agreed to buy it in October 1997, closing the deal January 1, 1998.

Clock Tower Place numbering of buildings. In the compass rose, north and
south are reversed, but east and west are correct. Click photos to enlarge.
After DEC shuttered the mill and other buildings, and laid off employees, Maynard was not quite a ghost town, but it felt like one. Housing prices did not decline, but also did not increase at the same rate as neighboring towns. New housing starts and population growth stalled. Local businesses suffered greatly as the demand for daily services fell and weekday foot traffic all but disappeared in the downtown area.

An essential part of the deal for Clock Tower Place was an agreement with the Town of Maynard establishing tax incentive financing (TIF). The terms were that for increases in assessed value of the property – based on improvements to the buildings and grounds, and increased value as tenants moved in – there would be a 95% discount of property taxes for the first five years and a 50% discount for the following ten years. The TIF was approved at Town meeting, April 1998, and was to run July 1998 through June 2013. The TIF initially saved CTP more than half a million dollars a year. CYP also got a state abandoned building tax credit. Because of the tax breaks, Clock Tower Place was able to offer below-market rental rates. By mid-1999 the mill complex was at 50% occupancy, 73% the following February, and all 1,100,00 square feet full by the end of 2000. Downtown’s vacant storefronts were reoccupied in parallel. sign at Clock Tower Place parking lot
After filling the existing buildings with tenants, CTP was so optimistic about potential growth that it proposed adding a new 300,000 square foot building on the south side of the mill pond plus a five-story parking garage. Then, the business outlook changed. Three years into the recession that had started in 2008, the vacancy rate was hovering around 30%, with more departures expected. The death knell sounded when relocated. This international job-search company had moved to Clock Tower in 1998 with about 50,000 square feet of floor space. Within years it had expanded to 300,000 square feet. Monster also had a visible presence in town, sponsoring blood drives and an annual road race to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Assabet Valley. In early 2014, the company, which had already been downsizing (having missed the social media impact on job search that had fostered LinkedIn), relocated all of its 600+ remaining employees to Weston.

mill&main sign for Stratus and Battle Road (tenants)
With Monster gone, Wellesley Rosewood was facing less than 30% occupancy, a $50 million mortgage, and an expired TIF. Clock Tower Place was put up for sale. The buyers, in 2015, were Artemis Real Estate Partners and Saracen Properties, having bought the mortgage and secured an additional $40.8 million financing. The mill complex was rebranded as Mill & Main. Lincoln Property Company was brought in as on-site managers. Remodeling included removal of two of the smaller buildings (10 and part of 2) and extensive landscaping. Town-approved zoning changes allowed for retail and restaurant opportunities, not yet realized. Heading toward Maynard’s 150th anniversary, Mill & Main continues to seek tenants for the building space and other options that could benefit it and the town.   

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Maynard Police Department

Plaque at Maynard Police Station showing
what is on the current uniform patch.
At the very first town meeting, April 27, 1871, the need for law enforcement was seen as essential. Three constables were elected: Fred Fletcher, William Maxwell and Thomas Farrell. Their responsibilities included keeping order, distributing town warrants, and for an extra $10 per year, school truant officers. The following month the town approved construction of a brick lock-up, 14 x 14 feet, consisting of two cells. The location was behind Railroad Street. Twenty years later, the town voted to build a new lock-up, also of brick, behind the Nason Street fire station. It was in use until 1934, then demolished in 1984 to make way for the Paper Store building at 36 Nason Street.

As late as 1900, the entire annual budget for the Police Department was $500 per year, but with the growth after the American Woolen Company bought and enlarged the mill, a larger police force became necessary. In 1930, crosswalks and yellow lines were painted in various places for the first time for traffic safety, indicating increased automobile traffic. A few years later police headquarters, including a lock-up, were moved to the building on the west side of town hall. The department got its first police car in 1938, added two-way radio in 1946, became responsible for managing the newly installed parking meters in 1951. Recent years have the meters bringing in about $40,000 and parking tickets $20,000.  

On October 4th, 1955, the department moved into the new combination police and fire station at the corner of Summer and Main Streets, to reside there for 54 years. After several years of planning and failed attempts to gain voter approval, a new station got a “Yes” vote at town meeting in 2007. The site was the building west of Town Hall, vacated by the Maynard Public Library, which had moved in 2006 into what had been Roosevelt School. The Board of Selectman attended the ground breaking ceremony on April 22, 2008, the ribbon-cutting ceremony one year later.

The police department uniform patch has its own history. From 1965 to 1982 it featured an eagle clutching arrows and olive branch, and a shield, all loosely borrowed from the Great Seal of the United States. In 1982 the Maynard Clock Tower replaced the stripes on the shield. Ten years later the shield contained the present-day Maynard Seal, with a smaller eagle clutching the US and Massachusetts flags. Lastly, in 2007, the eagle vanished, leaving space for the town seal centered on a blue background, with the words MAYNARD (above) POLICE (below). The trim on the clock tower image is shown as bright red. Through the years, the clock tower trim has been painted many colors: white, grey, bright red, and the present-day brick red.    

Maynard Police Headquarters, Maynard, MA
Present day, the Maynard Police Department headquarters are adjacent to Town Hall. Staffing is 21 officers (2 women) and 7 civilians, mostly dispatchers. Fire and Police Communications (dispatch) were combined into one communications center in 2015. Maynard has 2.0 officers per 1,000 population. That is below the national average of 2.4 per thousand. The completion of the Assabet River Rail Trail catalyzed a decision to purchase two electric-powered bicycles. Completion of Maynard Crossing, at 129 Parker Street, may necessitate increased staff.

According to, the 2018 crime index in Maynard was 3.3 times smaller than the U.S. average, but higher than in its surrounding towns. ‘Crime index’ is a City Data score that combines crimes against people and crimes against property. The great majority of reported crimes are thefts of property. There has been only one murder in the past 20 years. Week after week, the police report in the Beacon-villager is mostly loose/lost animals, vehicle accidents, family disputes and arrests for impaired driving.   
The town was not always so benign. Back around 1900-1940 there was a murder almost every other year! Circumstances were the usual: robbery, revenge, jealousy. Lorenzo Barnes murdered Acton Street resident John Dean in 1896 after robbing him of $70; Barnes was the last criminal in Massachusetts to be executed by hanging. In 1919, Luigi Graceffa was found floating in Charles River, knife wounds. He had testified as a witness in a murder case in Waltham, and this was thought to be a revenge killing. Referred to in the Boston Globe as the "Mill Pond Murder," Lila Taryma, mother of four, disappeared the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, 1953. Her body was found weeks later in the mill pond, lashed to a heavy radiator. Cause of death was head injuries. Her husband, Anthony Taryma, was initially charged with her murder. They had been seen arguing at a bar that evening, but he left and she remained. Anthony was not brought to trial due to insufficient evidence.

Police Chief: From 1902-1925, the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen acted as chief of police. After that: John Connors (1925-1936), Henry F. Piecewicz (1937-1954), Michael T. Zapareski (1955-1968), Albert J Crowley (1968-1980), Arner S. Tibbetts (1980-1986 as interim chief, 1986-1994), Edward M. Lawton (1994-1999), James F. Corcoran (1999-2012), Mark Dubois (2012-2019), Michael A. Noble (2019-present).

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Digital Equipment Corporation - the Decline

After protracted negotiations, Compaq announced on January 26, 1998 that it would acquire a downsized Digital Equipment Corporation. The deal closed in June. The purchase price was $9.6 billion dollars. DEC shareholders got $30 plus one share of Compaq stock for each DEC share. This for a computer company once second only to IBM, a company that had reached annual sales of $14 billion dollars, market capitalization of $24 billion and 125,000 employees working in more than 80 countries.

Stumbles in the end that contributed to DEC’s decline and fall were many. A simplistic, off-repeated story is that DEC had declined to get into the personal computer business, but this was only a small part of the problem. Circa 1985, DEC decided to compete in the arena of commercial data centers. This market traditionally belonged to International Business Machines, and to complete would require a massive increase in staff involved in sales and service. The employee population increased 26,800 in two years. Around the same time, senior management decided that the upgraded VAX system would no longer support ‘open architecture’, making it difficult for manufacturers of add-on components. DEC also decided that any purchase of a used DEC computer would require a fee to relicense the software that was already on the computer. Profitable short-term? Yes. Angry customers? Also yes.

"Clocktower" belt buckle for employees
who had been at headquarters five years.
The company was also strongly committed to vertical integration, meaning that it wanted to own its manufacture of components – chips, screens, keyboards – even when buying from independent companies would cost less. Meanwhile, competition had gained ground. Sun Microsystems and Data General competed head-to-head in the mini-computer niche, DEC failed in an attempt to compete with IBM in the mainframe niche (development of the failed VAX9000 mainframe chewed through $3 billion in critically needed capital), and while DEC was focusing upward IBM, all the micro-computer companies were approaching fast from below.

DEC’s crash was fast. The last year of billion-dollar profits was 1989. Total revenue continued to increase, but 1990 was only marginally profitable, and subsequent years saw losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Restructuring was rampant and continuous. People in senior management were leaving. There were hiring freezes, followed by offerings of early retirement and generous severance packages for those willing to volunteer to leave. The layoffs began in earnest in January 1991, including in Maynard. All company operations in the mill buildings shut down in 1993, the Parker Street complex soon after. Company headquarters had previously been relocated to a new building on Powdermill Road (later sold to Stratus Technologies, soon to become part of Beijing Royal School).

Ken Olsen, President of DEC
Click on photos to enlarge
President Ken Olsen, 65 years old in 1991, and the only president the company had had since its creation in 1957, was strongly against layoffs. From a May 1992 article in the New York Times: “We’ve lived through many recessions,” he said, “This is just one more.”

The company had weathered downturns before by depending on its research excellence to leapfrog the competition to a new industry supremacy. Staff were reassigned, but not let go. This time, no. In July 1992, the company’s Board of Directors forced Olsen to resign. For thousands of employees, working for DEC within the empowering management system and mantra of “Do the right thing,” this was a heart-wrenching event. A forum comment from one employee “I used to drive to the office in the morning, and I couldn’t wait to get to work – I love my job and the company environment… The company doesn’t love itself anymore. Now I drive to work in the morning and all I can think about is getting out of this company and doing something else”

Robert Palmer, who had joined the company in 1985 to run the computer chip manufacturing division, took over as president, also taking on the title of Chief Executive Officer, and later, Chairman of the Board. He was perceived as competent, but not visionary. Over six years, Palmer oversaw plant closings, staff relocations, layoffs of 60,000 employees and sale of many of the major components of the company. Downsizing cost the company close to $5 billion.

Poster for DEC's search engine, AltaVista
Even during the decline, there had been successes. Digital launched the internet search engine AltaVista in 1995. It was the most popular among many competing search engines such as Lycos, AskJeeves and Yahoo, until Google came to dominate the market after 2000. According to one source, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had approached DEC in 1997 with their Pagerank system, hoping to be acquired by Altavista, before going on to start Google.

DEC was not alone in suffering setbacks and contractions in the 1990s. IBM shrank from 405,000 employees in 1985 to 220,000 by 1994, and reduced its stock dividend by two-thirds. Data General, Wang Laboratories, Prime Computer, Lotus Development Corporation and Apollo Computer were all greater-Boston area computer companies that faded and folded or were acquired around the same time.

Was the sale inevitable? Probably not. With a different senior management, it is possible that Digital could have survived, perhaps prospered, but unlikely that it could have regained its aura as a radically innovative company attracting the best and the brightest. Instead, ex-DEC employees went on to populate the next generation of tech companies.